Wednesday, February 8, 2012

You don’t have to be a Pro to Write a Winning Entry Part 2

Yesterday I shared the story of how I went from inept amateur to Frasier winner in less than one year. Today, I’d like to share how the Frasier win affected my life and how you can transform your entry into a scene you can be proud of.   
The My Book Therapy website advertises the Frasier contest as the perfect way to:
1. Get feedback from professionals on your manuscript, and
2. Start a buzz for your work among the gatekeepers.
1. Get feedback from professionals: When I entered, I believed the feedback would be well worth the entry fee. I was not disappointed. The judges took time to really examine my work. Their comments were thorough, encouraging and helpful. Not only did they point out areas I could improve, they also gave ideas on how to fix the problems. They took the time to show me where I excel. They provided specific example for both positive and negative comments so I could apply the feedback to improve my work. They also gave advice about how my work fits into the industry and offered suggestions to improve my chances of making a sale.  
2. Start a buzz for your work among the gatekeepers: At my first ever ACFW conference, people knew my name. Both of the agents I met with had heard of me or even read my work before I arrived at my meetings. I received requests for materials from both of them as well as one editor. Since my win I’ve been featured on blogs and websites. I even have people outside of the writing community taking notice of me because they ran across my name on the web. People from my church, the nurse at my doctor’s office and old acquaintances I haven’t seen in many years have tracked me down to find out what all the buzz is about. I have opportunities to network and establish my brand as an author almost everyday.
Another benefit of winning is the scholarship to an MBT retreat. Because of that scholarship, I have the opportunity to return to Deep Thinkers this year. With so very much to learn and so much valuable information presented, repetition is good! I couldn’t have possibly absorbed all there was to learn the first time.     
Receiving the Frasier award has had an amazing effect on my life, but the benefits of entering began long before the winner was announced. As a matter of fact, they began before I’d even sent my entry!
In the days leading up to the entry deadline, My Book Therapy blogs, chats and forums were packed with Frasier contest specific information, tips and tricks. The Frasier is unlike any other contest because they not only tell you exactly what the judges are looking for, but then take it a step farther and actually train you to deliver exactly what they are looking for! Polishing my Frasier entry last year was one of the most valuable exercises in writing I’ve ever participated in. I learned how to weave all the elements into the story, not just for the entry, but for all of my subsequent writing and editing projects.    
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who is considering entering the Frasier is to be teachable. MBT will give you the tools you need to write a powerful scene that will exceed your own expectations. 
A few things to remember when crafting a Frasier contest entry:
           Your entry should only include ONE scene with ONE point of view (POV). This scene should be the first scene in your story.
           Weed out words that end in “ly” and the word “was” as much as possible. These are symptoms of passive writing, or telling instead of showing.
           Replace dialogue tags (he said, she said) with action beats (use body language, emotional reaction, internal dialogue, and expression).
           Limit back story. Your reader doesn’t need a full explanation of your character’s back story in the first scene. A well written hint or emotional reaction can be more powerful than paragraphs of explanation. Leave the reader wanting to know more, not overwhelmed with information dump.

           Stay under 1500 words. It would sure be a bummer if your winning entry was disqualified because you couldn’t manage to shave off those extra 64 words. You can do it! If you have the opposite problem and your entry is only 700 words, then you probably haven’t included all of the elements. Keep reading! We’ll talk about what you might need to add.

One of best tools available for polishing your Frasier entry is the first chapter checklist.

First Chapter Checklist (from the Book Buddy by Susan May Warren):
1.        Have you created sympathy for your character so we love them?
2.     Have you shown us your character's home life, so we know where their journey begins?
3.     Have you shown us your character's competence, and their identity?
4.     Have you given us a glimpse of your characters greatest dream?
5.     Have you given us a hint of your character's greatest fear?
6.     Have you given us a hint at your character's spiritual lie?
7.     Have you set the mood of the book (suspense/mystery/fantasy, women's fiction, rom-com, romance, etc).  
8.     Have you delivered the story question that will drive us through the book? 
9.     Do you have crisp, interesting dialogue?
10.   Have you honed your hook to include the Who, What, Why, When and Where's of the story? 
11.   Do you have sufficient storyworld?
12.   Have you used the five senses? 
13.   Have you shown us the story in active voice?  
14.   Have you used specific nouns and vivid verbs to add emotion to the story? 
15.   Finally, have you ended the scene with a disaster, something that makes the reader want to turn the page?

It seems impossible at first. How can you fit all of that into one scene without breaking any of the rules? (If you don’t understand any of the elements, search the MBT blog and forum for explanations, or post a comment here and I'll do my best to explain.)
First, look at what you have written and highlight any elements that are already clearly defined. Next, find places to naturally interject missing elements. When you believe you have accomplished this, have someone else read your scene (preferably a writer who understands the concepts. If you don’t have a craft partner or crit group, post an offer to exchange entries with someone else on the “Critique Partners?” Forum in the MBT Bleachers. Here’s the link
Ask your critique partner to read your entry carefully then answer the 15 checklist questions without looking back. Ask for more than just Yes or No. See if they can give an example or short explanation for each question.
If your reader can’t answer all of these questions (with the answers you intended) then go back and strengthen the weak areas.
You don’t have to be a pro to write a winning entry. Trust me! I have a long way to go. But whether you win or not, you won’t regret entering the Frasier. The skills you learn just by polishing an entry will be worth it and the judges’ feedback takes those skills a step farther. You'll improve your writing, learn about the industry and get your work in front of professionals. And who know, you might be the next Frasier winner! 

To read the story of my journey to the Frasier win, check out yesterday’s post, You don’t have to be a Pro to Write a Winning Entry Part 1. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. That first chapter checklist is so perfect for Frasier entrants...and beyond! I use it all the time when I'm working on scenes now.

    I know I've said it before, but congrats on being the Frasier winner last year! You so deserved it!!

  2. Funny story about that whole "One scene = One POV" reality:
    I had my Fraiser entry ready to go. Or so I thought.
    Then Susie May Warren commented about the One scene/One POV rule in a MBT Monday night chat> I was stunned. Somehow I'd missed that -- and I had two POVs in my 1500 word scene.
    I had some serious re-writing to do if I wanted to enter the contest.
    So, I rewrote it.
    And I finaled.

  3. Wow, very informative post. I am definitely going to use that list of "must haves" as I polish my entry. This is my first contest entry for fiction so *fingers crossed*! I think more than anything, I'm looking forward to the feedback. I don't expect to final or win, but getting the feedback to kind of know "where I'm at" will be beyond helpful!

    Do you know if MBT has the winning entries from previous years posted anywhere? I couldn't find them so I'm assuming not. But if so, that would be extremely helpful to me, to see these elements modeled.

    Nice to "meet you," by the way. :)

    1. So nice to meet you, too! They do not post the entries, but I'm happy to share mine. Emial me at and I'll send it to you. I never expected to win either, but you just never know! I'll be cheering for you! Thanks for stopping by my blog!